National’s Paul Goldsmith is calling out NZ First Shane Jones over purported links to a forestry company's application for $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund.
The company, NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) said it had given a presentation to Mr Jones some months before the minister said he had first heard of the company's project. Mr Jones, however, denies any prior knowledge of the application.
Appearing on TVNZ1's Breakfast Political Panel today, Mr Goldsmith said the NZ First MP should have declared a conflict of interest at the very start.
“Shane lives on, he seems to be able to get away with anything and we don’t actually think that that’s the way to conduct such an important and very substantial fund,” said Mr Goldsmith.
“I mean Clare Curran got sacked for less. There are basic standards that should be implied when you’re dealing with large sums of money.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern removed Ms Curran from Cabinet and accepted her offer to resign from the Government Digital Services portfolio and Open Government responsibilities in August 2018 after failing to disclose a meeting with tech entrepreneur Derek Handley about the vacant Chief Technology Officer role.
Mr Goldsmith said there were specific questions asked in Parliament about Mr Jones knowledge of the company.
“There were very clear answers from Shane, didn’t know anything about it,” said Mr Goldsmith.
“The story is chopping and changing all the time.”
Mr Jones maintains that he had nothing to do with the allocation of the money.
“The whole story really is the National Party pimping fake news,” said Mr Jones.
“They never got any money, I was not involved in any formal approval process which is why I recused myself."
He said he recused himself because of his ties to Brian Henry, who is involved in NZFFP and who is also a lawyer to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
"I had nothing to do with the allocation or in actual fact on this occasion the denial of them getting any money," he said.
Mr Jones declared a conflict of interest in October last year and stepped aside from the decision on NZFFP's application for a Provincial Growth Fund loan.